Friday, July 17, 2009

coming out of the ugly closet

prepare yourself for some word vomit. or blogorrhea, whichever you prefer. but i've been thinking about this for the past couple of weeks. and then something happened that finally put words to my thoughts. watch out, world!


the episode from the real mom's guide online show (link no longer works) on "body image" was really difficult for me. it's hard enough to admit to myself that i don't like the way i look on the outside, let alone to whoever is watching me spill it to a camera.

i've been a bit down lately. and unfortunately, it all had to do with the reflection i saw as i looked in the mirror each day. because for me, starting at a very young age:

overweight = ugly

but honestly, until today, i never realized that before. enlightening, isn't it? not done yet. i will expound.

i always thought that i had cute features, okay hair, semi-decent skin (once jr. high was over), nice teeth (after braces), fantastic feet, and a good personality. i could hold my own in sports, had a talent for music, loved to have fun, loved to laugh.

but none of these things mattered if i felt i was fat or chubby. because those squishy parts were all that i could see, and for me they made the entire package an ugly one.

i don't know where this came from. my parents didn't put this on me, clearly not at 6 1/2, when i wrote a new year's resolution to "lose weight." i was always treated in a way that i knew i was loved, and appreciated, and valued.

so where did it come from??

i was not overweight at 6 1/2. in fact, i didn't really start to chub up until i was in 6th grade, and even then, i still looked like most of the girls my age, just a bit rounder.

but to relive a defining and devastating moment in my life, i will share a story....

and this is really, really hard for me to write about, even like 18 years later. because this traumatized me and broke my spirit in a way that probably has never happened since then.

i got asked to "go out" by a kid in 5th grade. he was cute, hung with the popular crowd, and admitted he liked me. boy, did i think i was a hot ticket. we "went out" for quite a while...which in elementary school terms, was longer than 2 weeks. we talked with each other on the phone, and would meet up with friends. got each other valentine's day presents.

that was as far as it went, but i felt special knowing that a guy liked me enough to not mind saying it in front of our entire 5th grade class.

sadly, all good things must come to an end. when he finally broke up with me, he wrote me a letter:


guess what? i don't remember 9 of them. they meant nothing to me, i knew that he was just a dumb boy and that his older brother had helped him compile this list. but the one that i did remember??

(this is word for word, burned into my memory)

"you're so fat that you can't even see the tops of your shoes."

i was crushed. devastated.

i am crying as i am typing this.

and just so you have a mental image of what i looked like, i give to you exhibit A:

(bottom row, far right, frizz-tastic hair, semi-sailor motif)

don't make fun of my fancy pants dress, my mom did make me wear that.

want to know who my BF was? ooh, just to be spiteful, i almost outed him. but i won't, because i'm sure he's evolved past the DB type of behavior he was a part of during this age. but he's cute, and tall, and on the back row, and he's the only one in a lighter color...aka, not wearing blue, green, brown, grey or black. you do the math. (sorry, he deserved it!)

so do i look FAT to you? i already know the answer. it is NO. but when this kid wrote these words to me, the saddest part was:

i believed him.

which again reiterated the belief that fat = ugly. a harsh belief at such a young age.

you know that christina aguilera song, "beautiful" where she says:

"you are beautiful, no matter what they say...words can't bring you down"

well, that last part is CRAP. sorry christina, i know the point behind the song. but it just isn't true. his words brought me down so quickly and so violently that i remember my cheeks burning with shame as my friends and i read his "stupid letter."

so what happens to a young girl who is told she is fat and believes she is ugly??

well, let me tell you.

she does everything she can to compensate for feeling ugly. she wears make-up too young, which then blooms into just too much make-up altogether, constantly compares herself to others, buys too many clothes to try to feel pretty. avoids things, sells herself short in a lot of areas, and begins to lie. not only to others, but to herself.

she lies that she is happy, and unaffected.

i didn't have a rotten childhood. there were rough moments, but i felt that others have been through much worse than i had.

but what i did go through was inner turmoil. i truly did like my personality. in fact, i will go so far as to say i loved it. i was proud of the fact that i could be funny, make people laugh, was well-liked, had good common sense, and was kind because i wanted to be.

i loathed my outer image though. i could not stand looking in mirrors, hated having my picture taken, never wanted to get into a swimsuit. and lied to myself in the way that i would say, "it's not that bad" but once i saw a picture of myself, the devastation would come in waves and i would vow that not one more cookie would pass my lips. which would last all but a minute.

i hated to have birthday parties for myself. and what kid doesn't want presents, and cake, and friends? well, me. i knew it meant pictures, and everyone looking at me. i kept these reasons to myself, and just told my parents that i was "shy" or didn't want a party for some other excuse.

i kept my ugliness locked in a tight vault, only for me to see. and pretended i liked being the chubby, funny friend.

but truth?


i ached to be the long-legged, straight haired, beautiful girl. or even leave out the beautiful, i just wanted to be thin. because to me, thin = beautiful. that was all i cared about.

i remember going with friends to malls, dances, roller skating rinks, line dancing. it didn't matter what i wore, how fantastic my hair was, or how cute i could act. i was constantly overlooked standing next to my thin friends.

most of the time.

every now and then, i would get noticed. but because my self-image was so messed up, i would tell myself cruel, mean things. "he's only asking you because the other girl couldn't go." and start the self-sabotage pattern which would eventually end the relationship.

which was what i was talking about in this post. believing for years that you're unattractive does a number on your belief of self-worth, and your belief on who you feel you deserve. so the good guys i dated, i would sabotage whatever was happening. the jerks, i stuck around far too long with.

for those who don't know, ben and i met in high school. we were friends, and kept in touch every now and then after high school. when i lived in jackson hole & he was going to school at BYU-Idaho, he decided to come and visit for a day. at the time i was involved with another DB and he had a girlfriend, so there was nothing but friendship going on.

but during that visit, we were at a park talking, and catching up on the past couple of years. and he said something to me that i have not forgotten, and will never forget.

he said,

"i wish you could see yourself the way others see you."

i remember looking at him and stopping all of the negative voices in my head, and only listening to one. it was the small, sad one that said back, "i wish i could too."

a few months later, i moved home to get my tonsils out and he was home on a break. we were both post-break-up and both anti-relationships. so it worked out perfectly.

and with him, i felt something that i didn't recognize.


and it started to show.


i am grateful because there has not been one time in our marriage that i have not felt beautiful when i am with him. no matter how stinky i am, whether or not i'm wearing make-up, if i'm 9 months pregnant, or if i still haven't lost the baby weight.

not once.

which is a good thing.

however, i'm realizing that i need him in order to feel beautiful. when he's gone, or when i see myself on the online show, or when i'm just staring in the mirror, i don't feel it.

which i think, is a problem.

because it's not coming from me, from the inside. it's coming from an outside source and when that source is missing, so is my self-worth.

another story, this one is a lot less depressing than the last...

last year, while living in north carolina, i took one of the group home kids out grocery shopping at sam's club with me. i was reaching for some water bottles and noticed a lovely, 30-something lady staring at me. i immediately felt self-conscious. she saw me catch her staring, and suddenly said loudly,

"you are so beautiful!" emphasis on the so.

i was flustered, caught off-guard, embarrassed. i had never had a complete stranger say these words to me.

"um, thank you," i muttered quietly, and smiled a quick smile. i walked around on clouds during that grocery trip.

as we got in the GH van, my thoughts were still focused on the comment from this stranger. so even though i didn't mean to, i blurted aloud,

"that was so nice!" another emphasis on the so.

and the teenage guy said, "what was?"

i felt stupid, because i didn't know how to get around telling him that i was still thinking about this comment. but couldn't come up with anything creative, so i said,

"oh, you know, when that lady said she thought i was pretty."

and his reply was,

"well, that's because you are."

in a very nonchalant way. like it was matter-of-fact. like, duh.

i was stunned again.

immediately i dismissed the compliment from the teenager. as i always do, when a non-stranger compliments my looks. "he said that because he didn't know what else to say," i told my self. and of course, i believed that. but as hard as i tried, there was no way to get around the compliment from this lady.

nice story, huh? i know.

so why can't i believe these words all of the time? and why does my weight have so much to do with it?

you want to know what's a tell-tale sign for me that i don't feel attractive? i change my hairstyle. so looking back in the last 6 months... i've changed my hair 4 times.





and still am not happy with it. but let's be honest here. is it really the hair?


as i was feeding the baby the other day, i flipped on the t.v. and "the view" was on. i turned it on in time to see the ending of an interview with margaret cho.

remember her? a comedian, who at one point had her own sitcom about herself.

anyway, she was talking about how the producers from the show asked her to lose some weight. to play herself. on t.v. she said she battled with bulimia, and body image issues for years.

and then one of the ladies asked her, "so, normally when people say they're coming out of the closet, it's referring to gender preference. but you say you're coming out of the ugly closet?"

and she said yes. that she was sick of feeling ugly and fat and that she was embracing her body image and finally telling herself that she is beautiful. she said she had to look at herself in the mirror and repeat it, so that she would believe it.

this was when the lightbulb came on for me.

i don't have to be thin to be beautiful! i already am beautiful!

sounds so simple right?

well, you try telling that to the 28 year old ugly girl inside of me. this mentality is years in the making, brought on by more experiences than just my 5th grade boyfriend. don't worry, i won't share them all.

so i've decided. it's time for a change.

time to come out of the ugly closet, undo the damage that has been done.

and become beautiful. or, finally believe that i always have been. no matter what size or shape i am. no matter what the scale reads.

i don't think this will be an easy or quick process. but i do believe that it will be completely worth it. i'm going to start with silencing the destructive voices and immediately change them into positive thoughts.

take more time for myself, eat better, exercise because i want to (what a novel idea this is!), get a good rest, and embrace every compliment that is given to me...without disputing it. whether it's from a stranger or not.

wish me luck, it might be a long journey.


Jake, Jill, Jenna said...

this must have been difficult to write about but thank you SO MUCH for sharing it. as i was reading it, i could have sworn you were writing the story of MY life. we've had very similar experiences and i have all the exact same feelings about my skin! i'm goin' on 10 years of spots on my face and being pregnant seems to make it worse. it's so lame - i feel like that's all people focus on when they talk to me and i hardly (if ever) leave the house without makeup on. i avoid people and definitely hold back because of it. i also had someone in high school make a comment that scarred me for life - it's horrible what we let others' words do to us. i really appreciate your thoughts and i just might jump on the bandwagon with you.... try to be my best self and find it inside to feel beautiful.

Rachel H. said...

Sweet Lyns...

I have ALWAYS thought you were so beautiful. I have ALWAYS compared...feeling like you might not like ME because you were so much cuter. I know exactly what you are talking about--where you are coming from. And I hate this struggle. I hate feeling like people look at me and my husband together and think he could do so much better.

Why can't we just snap our fingers and have things be OKAY??

Thank you for writing this. You really made me think this morning. Lots.

You are so wonderful. I really do hope you know that...

Mike and Jenny said...

Thanks so much for that post. I have really been struggling with my image lately as well trying to come up with ways to lose weight. I too change my hair all the time because it is something I can easily change. I have always thought you were beautiful and wouldn't change a thing about you. We are so critical of ourselves and I am grateful for good friends and hubbies who make us see otherwise. I will embark on this journey with you as well :)

P.S. The "naughty" boy who did that to you pulled a nasty trick as well which totally hurt me too (pretending to be someone else and "asking me out". I was the laughing stock at school the next day when I found out it was only a joke)!! It wasn't until high school when he apologized in my year book.

Francis and Fawn Becker said...

Yay Lynsey embrace your fabulousness!! Because ever since I have known you I have been jealous of your hair. Everyone is usually wanting to look like someone else. But, Ben is so right about seeing yourself how others see you because you would not even spare another second thinking you're not beautiful. And, that boy was a total DB....lets hope he married someone like Kate and gets an earfull everyday!

Tami said...

Amen to all of that! You put into words what we all are feeling. It really is time that we all start feeling beautiful. Thanks for posting. I just love reading your blog!

Wheat Family said...

Lynsey, you have a way with words. Every woman has these thoughts about themselves. I have tons of things I would love to change.
-For example, I have a "funky" knee since I was 12 and always feel the eyes, thus I hate wearing shorts and prefer capris.

I admire your strength to share your deepest feelings. It is inspiring and we can all come out of the ugly closet with you. Thanks for your thoughts. I too will add that you are incredibly gorgeous, and I wish I had your beaming glow and sparkling eyes.

Brooke said...

Okay Lyns - putting it simply, you are amazing. This is a hard journey. You have supported me through mine for several months now, and I can't even tell you how much it has meant. Not only do you have incredible insight and wisdom, but you truly do understand. . . the pain, the heartache, the fear, the depression, the hurt, the crazy, the constant crazy.

I'm so proud of you for getting all those things out. That's the first step. I have always struggled with honesty. I didn't want anyone to know I was struggling - you are honest - which makes starting the journey that much easier.

And you're right - it is a long process. I don't think I will cross the finish line or reach my destination - because I've found that it is a constant daily battle. Even having come this far, I still have days when I find myself raging against those voices in my head. The truth in my heart being suppressed by the ugly in my head is painful. Excruciating.

I hope that I will be able to give you back even a fraction of the support that you have given me. I need you. You life me up. We need each other - so thanks for being honest and reaching out.

4fabfelts said...

Dang it Lynsey you made me cry, that was such a touching, inspirational note. Thank You, you have always been beautiful in my eyes and I think it is because of the wonderful that you bring out in my brother, we are so blessed to have you as part of this family.

So when you figure all of this out, you can help me be as inspired as you are. You are amazing!


mommysue said...

I had no idea you had such a struggle. To me you were (are) adorable, lovable and loved. Nobody can match the sheer joy of listening to you & Aimee giggling your heads off. Your post is well-written and I think reminds us all to watch our tongues, speak kindly to others, and be mindful of their feelings. Thanks for the inspirational post. XO

Erika said...

I'm so glad you posted this Lynsey. I think everyone can relate to you in one way or another. Why is it so hard to be kind to ourselves??? I go through phases, like this week has totally been an U-G-L-Y week. I want you to know I have always thought you were just so gorgeous. I remember you had to do a little speaking thing at girl's camp and you had a bunch of pictures from high school dances and stuff and I was just like man Lynsey is so beautiful and funny and boys love her I want to be like her... I hope you truly see how others see you someday.

Anonymous said...

Lynsey, this took me by surprise, because I have always thought you were one of the most beautiful people I know. I feel I am a better person because I have had you and Bensey as a part of our lives. I remember the first time Beaz-in-the-trees came home and told me about the two of you he was in awe. You impressed him so much. We love the two of you. Thanks for being who you are.
You are so brave for sharing this, because despite having my own similar tale I couldn't honestly share it with anyone, even with myself. I admire you more all the time.
Kiss the old guy for me and the two young ones.

Rachel Chick said...

I love you so much.

As the lady said, Lyns, You are SO beautiful. I've known you a long time now Lynsey. You are SO beautiful. In every way.

Remember WHO those voices come from. We do ourselves an injustice believing that they come from within. Feeling as if we are fighting ourselves. Those voices are liars.

I love you so much.

Thank you.

Kristen said...

Lynsey, I love you. I cried as I read your post because I have been there--who hasn't? Thanks for sharing. I think the key is seeing yourself as the Lord sees you. He created you EXACTLY the way you are for a reason. It is time to embrace that and enjoy that! The Lord knows best and He loves you . . . just the way you are!! Don't allow Satan to tear you down . . . EVER! He will try to hold you back in any way he can and it's time to stop him and move forward. You are beautiful and once you realize that, you will be able to reach a higher level of your potential. Hooray for life and learning! You really are amazing and I feel so blessed to have you in my life! (Even if it is only through the blog). I love you and will be praying for you!

Emily said...

You are so cute and it amazes me that this is coming from you because you sure put on a good act growing up, you were always the fun happy girl that I loved to be around and I will add Beautiful! Every time I see pictures of you, I just think to myself...those dimples...she is so lucky! I am glad you wrote this, I think it's important for people to understand what words can do to people. We could go on for hours about hour horrible those years were for each of us, it makes me sad to know that my own children will have to go through so much, but at least we know how to love them when they come home. You are an amazing person and I love you!

The Foster Bunch said...

As I sat and read your post, the tears just started to flow. I think as women we are harder on ourselves then we need to be. We all have struggled with our self image sometime in our life. Today your post was what I needed. We all need to remember that we are beautiful, and that we should be proud of who we are. Thank you for posting this, I know it is hard to confess something that is hurtful. So thanks! I love you tons, and miss your a ton. You are an amazing person, and I am so grateful for your friendship. Just remember there are others struggling with you.

K Harker said...

Oh Lyns, knowing you as long as I have I would have never guessed. You know what I liked about this post? You were honest with us and more importantly with your self. This was very well written, I also liked how you didn't say "I'm not posting this to get compliments" we all knew you weren't and it didn't need to be said and you knew it. But I'm going to truthfully compliment you now cause I want to...I've always been a little envious of you and almost wished I could be you or like you any way, with tons of friends people just flock around you, a great sense of humor, I've always wished I could make people laugh, and even more so, I wish I had your beautiful smile, eyes, a beautiful everything! I always secretly wished I could be a "Lynsey Strader" but not in a "bad jealous" way I just thought you had it all, ya know.
A friend of yours commented on a post above about this post...she was talking about the difference between a low self esteem and a low self image (or something like that) I think we all struggle with one or both at some time in our life. I think I struggle mostly with the low self esteem thing, thinking I wish I was more talented in many ways but I think they coincide with each other because if your self esteem is low you don't take care of the way you look and then your self image begins to lower too.
I think this is all part of Lucifer's plan to bring us down, to get us on the path to sin. It's hard to keep that perspective though, I know it is for me any way.
Thanks for sharing!

The Hunter's said...

Lynsey, you are beautiful and amazing! Everyone has their own trials, but you are so brave to open up with so many people. I think reading your feelings and then your readers posts, helps everyone realize that we all have rough times and need eachothers help through it.

Hev said...

I know you wrote this a long time ago but I have been chasing a 1 year old around and don't get much time to sit for very long. :) Thank you for this post. I never knew you went through that back in the 5th grade. Who was it? I will beat them up... :) You are beautiful inside and out. You said so many things that I needed to hear. It is funny... i didn't feel beautiful until I began dating my hubby David. I feel like we are so much a like Lyns. I love you lots! Thanks for sharing your feelings... i know that wasn't easy... i respect you so much!